Syracuse University’s Next Vice Chancellor and Provost, Michele G. Wheatly
Described as a dynamic leader, an internationally recognized scholar and a true champion of a liberal education, Michele G. Wheatly has been named Vice Chancellor and Provost of Syracuse University. Wheatly will assume her new role on May 16, 2016.
“Michele Wheatly has demonstrated the kind of leadership that embraces change, empowers research excellence and enhances the student experience,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “She is the ideal person to lead the implementation of our academic strategic plan as we enhance our position as a great, thriving, international research university. I welcome her to this great university. I look forward to what we will accomplish together.”
With a global education and a research portfolio that includes continuous National Science Foundation funding totaling $25 million over 30 years, Wheatly has an impressive academic record. She credits “a rigorous British education” (she earned a Ph.D. from Birmingham University and completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Calgary, Canada) for instilling in her an intellectual curiosity and a passion for learning rooted in the humanities and the arts. Her inquisitiveness led her to study physiology to help advance the understanding of how animal systems work. Her academic leadership trajectory blended research, teaching undergraduates and training graduate students. She eventually became chair of a department and dean of a college. An advocate for interdisciplinarity, Wheatly taught across disciplines, including courses as diverse as marine animal physiology, human computer interaction, career planning for biologists and women in science.
“My journey as an educator, a scholar and a researcher has been driven by quality and access, values that are well-aligned with Syracuse University,” Wheatly says. “I am thrilled to work with the campus community to enhance our overall student experience, while growing an innovation ecosystem and positioning the University as a fount of liberal arts scholarship. I am eager to build on the University’s leadership in diversity, equity and inclusive excellence. Providing the best education possible to an increasingly diverse student body is critical to the long-term success of the University and our country.”
Wheatly was appointed provost at West Virginia University (WVU) in September 2009 and served in that role from January 2010 through June 2014. During her tenure as provost, she led the development and execution of the new strategic vision and plan and oversaw 22 colleges, 200 degree programs, 32,000 students, 20,000 employees and a $2.5 billion budget. One of her signature programs there, the Women’s Leadership Initiative, has provided executive coaching and a pathway to success for dozens of women. Following her tenure as provost, Wheatly served as special assistant to WVU President Gordon Gee.
Clemson University President James P. Clements, who previously served as WVU president, says Syracuse University is fortunate to have someone of Wheatly’s strong academic stature.
“Dr. Wheatly is an incredible, forward-thinking academic leader, and I know she will do great things at Syracuse,” says President Clements. “She has an outstanding record of ensuring academic quality, advancing research and fostering an inclusive environment. As provost at West Virginia, she was instrumental in developing and implementing the University’s strategic plan and did much to enhance diversity. Syracuse has made an excellent choice for its new provost.”
President Gee echoed President Clements’ sentiment.
“Congratulations both to Michele and to Syracuse. Michele is an energetic leader who brings with her a strong track record in the classroom, in the laboratory and in administration. Syracuse is getting a strong academic leader, who will inspire students and faculty alike to do their best to advance the cause of education,” WVU President Gordon Gee says.
Wheatly’s appointment comes on the heels of the Vice Chancellor and Provost Search Committee’s 10-month search process, led by Charles Driscoll, University Professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and chair of the search. The committee, consisting of students, faculty, staff and members of the Board of Trustees, was charged with recruiting, interviewing and ultimately recommending the University’s next chief academic officer. Driscoll says the Provost is the chief academic officer of the university. Therefore the search committee recognizes the importance of this activity for Syracuse University.
“In our minds, a significant opportunity to shape the future of our institution, particularly its commitment to academic excellence, was in our hands,” says Driscoll. “We were fortunate the Syracuse University community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni, were overwhelmingly engaged throughout the process. Their input was instrumental in helping us identify the experience, credentials and qualities we should seek in a candidate. Michele possessed all of these and more.”
Wheatly describes her leadership style as “principled, engaged and inclusive—inspiring others to create a shared destiny, and fostering a culture of community, understanding and mutual respect.”
Tej Bhatia, professor of linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the search committee, says he couldn’t agree more. With Wheatly at the helm of the Academic Strategic Plan, Bhatia says Syracuse University’s future is bright.
“As a humanist, I was drawn to Michele’s unique and firm understanding of the significant role the College of Arts and Sciences plays in the University’s academic strategic plan. Her ability to communicate with all constituencies across disciplines; her experience with crafting and implementing a strategic plan; her fundraising prowess; and her brand stewardship will make her an immediate asset to Syracuse University,” says Bhatia.
Wheatly’s personable demeanor and her ability to connect with a variety of stakeholders is what impressed Aysha Seedat ’16, president of the Student Association and a search committee member.
“I had a good feeling about Michele the moment I met her,” says Seedat. “It was obvious early on she would be a visible and memorable leader on campus, engage students on the issues that are important to them and help take the University’s academic vision and mission to the next level. She’ll be an effective, results-driven leader who you’ll also be able to snap a selfie with on the Quad.”
Wheatly’s appointment also marks the conclusion of Elizabeth D. Liddy’s tenure as interim vice chancellor and provost.
“Liz has been instrumental in crafting the Academic Strategic Plan,” says Chancellor Syverud. “Her entrepreneurial spirit, resolute leadership and collaborative approach have generated significant results across our campus. I am most grateful to her and look forward to working with her on future projects and initiatives as dean and a key member of the Chancellor’s Council.”
Prior to her appointment as interim vice chancellor and provost, Liddy spent 25 years as a faculty member, researcher and dean at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool). Liddy will reassume her post as dean of the iSchool, a position she was first appointed to in 2008.